Lunchtime is busy at a Dal Bhaat Kendra near Ranchi station on Saturday. Of the 10 centres meant to provide a meal of rice, dal and soya beans at Rs 5, the one at Sadar Hospital (below) isn’t functioning due to a dispute. It will open on October 10. Pictures by Prashant Mitra and Hardeep Singh
Ranchi, Oct. 6: The humble soya bean nugget will probably be the face-saver for chief minister Arjun Munda’s populist dal bhaat scheme in the capital that has been struggling to give aam aadmi a full meal for Rs 5 in the face of relentless price hike of essential commodities and fuel.
As of now, nine of the 10 Dal Bhaat Kendra that started last year from Independence Day are running, each providing a combo meal of rice, dal and vegetables for Rs 5 to over 3,000 people a day.
But those running the show point out that prices in many cases have gone up exponentially.
“Pulses, which we used to get at Rs 49 per kg when our centre was opened, now come for Rs 56 per kg. We used to buy a kg of potato for Rs 5 and now do that for Rs 15. Green vegetables are so costly. The diesel hike has raised transport costs of everything. Budgeting is a major worry,” said Ruma Pal, treasurer of Sahyogita Mahila Samiti, assigned the task of running the Birsa Chowk dal bhaat centre.
Officials at the district supply office, which gives each centre 2,400 kg of rice at Rs 1 per kg, said in September over 91,000 people ate meals at the nine dal bhaat hubs. Labourers, rickshaw pullers, visitors from villages and in fact anyone looking for an affordable meal flock to any of the nine Dal Bhaat Kendras at RIMS, Town Hall, Birsa Chowk, Booty More, AG More and Birsa, Dhurwa and State Road Transport Corporation bus stands.
The one on Sadar Hospital premises, closed after a dispute among volunteers, will also open around October 10 with meals at Rs 5.
While NGO workers who have been handed the onus of keeping the kitchen fires burning for the subsidised dal bhaat scheme professed to be satisfied over feeding rising numbers of people with “a full meal for only Rs 5”, many added that rising prices were a worry.
An inventive weapon to partially wound the inflationary demon is the soya bean nugget that is as affordable as it is packed with nutrients.
Special rationing officer-cum-district supply officer of the district Pramod Singh said that if inflation was a formidable force, so was the soya bean bari.
“We can’t fight price hike and neither can we compromise on quality of the meals and the Rs 5 tag. What we can do is seek healthy alternatives. We can substitute soya bean bari, which are not just cheap but extremely healthy, in place of green vegetables,” said Singh.
As many homemakers know, soya bean nuggets soak up the flavours of the gravy rather well, making them versatile friends in the kitchen.
It is proving its mettle in bureaucratic boardrooms also.
“We have discussed the feasibility of the soya bean nuggets at a secretary-level meeting. It has been decided that each Dal Bhaat Kendra will get 5kg of soya bean nuggets. The tender for its supply will be floated very soon,” he said.